John Donne Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What are the figures of speech in John Donne's "Song: Sweetest Love"?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write10,920 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

John Donne uses apostrophe, or direct address, by talking to his beloved in this poem: he speaks directly to her to reassure her that he will not be gone long on his journey. He uses enjambment, or continuing a thought from one line to the next without a stop, when he writes:

Nor in hope the world can show
A fitter love for me ...

In the second stanza, the speaker uses comparison to liken himself to the sun. He says his journey will be faster than the sun's daily journey across the earth and that, just like the faithful sun, he will return the next day. He also uses personification, which is to give human traits to an inanimate object or animal. Here, he speaks of the sun as a "he" and says that it lacks the speaker's sense and desire, as if it should have sense and desire.

When the speaker says he will takes more "wings" on his journey than the sun, he doesn't mean he will literally take wings but that he will travel faster, like a bird with powerful wings. He is using a metaphor to liken his travel to flying.

Donne employs alliteration, or words in close proximity starting with the same consonant, when he writes:

O how feeble is man's power,
That if good fortune fall ...
The alliterative 'f's' create a sense of rhythm.
Donne uses anaphora, or beginning lines of verse with the same word or words when he writes
And we join to'it our strength,
And we teach it art and length
The speaker uses figures of speech when he tells his beloved that:
When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
When his beloved sighs in unhappiness, she is not literally blowing his soul way. What he means is she is giving him emotional pain by sighing. Likewise, when she weeps, his blood doesn't literally decay. He uses that image to convey that he feels terrible inside when she cries at the thought of their separation.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial